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Smart meters

The majority of homes in the UK are set to have a smart energy meter by 2024. Find out how they work, and how they can save you money.

Amy Smith
Amy Smith
Updated 16 June 2020  | 5 min read

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Key points

  • Smart meters automatically send readings to your supplier and show you your real time energy usage
  • There are two generations of smart meter: SMETS1 and SMETS2
  • It’s free to have a smart meter installed due to a government scheme which aims to finish rolling out smart meters across the UK by 2024
  • How you get a smart meter depends on your energy supplier

The deadline for the government’s smart meter rollout was originally set for the end of 2020 but this has been pushed back to 2024

What is a smart meter?

Smart meters replace your current gas/electric meters. It automatically sends regular readings to your energy supplier without the need for an internet connection.

Smart meters allow you to track your energy usage in real time as it includes an in-home display (IHD) screen to show how many units are being used and how much this will cost. You can then use this information to compare energy prices.

Energy companies are obliged to install smart meters for free under the government scheme, but you don’t have to accept one if you don’t want to – you’ll be given a normal meter instead or a smart meter with the smart functionality switched off.

There are two generations of smart meter – SMETS1 is the first and SMETS2 is the second.

Is a smart meter the same as an energy monitor?

An energy monitor just reads your energy usage. A smart meter, does that too. But it also sends readings to your provider and shows you the cost of energy you’ve used to date

Advantages of smart meters

  • No manual meter readings - Your smart meter sends readings to your supplier for you.
  • No estimated bills - Only pay for energy you’ve used.
  • In-home display - So you can keep track of how much energy you use.
  • Better energy management - Real-time energy use means you can see when and how you spend the most money.
  • Remote prepayment meter top ups - With some smart meters, you can add credit to them, saving a trip to the shops with your key.

Disadvantages of smart meters

  • Switching suppliers - Most first-generation smart meters don’t send meter readings to your new supplier. The usage data on your IHD can be inaccurate too.
  • Meter readings are sent over mobile networks - It’s not the most reliable way for your supplier to take your meter readings and if installed incorrectly may lead to incorrect billing.
  • Real-time information might be unhelpful for you - Knowing how much you’re spending each day could encourage you to switch the heating off to save. This could be bad for your health, particularly if you’re elderly or have a lung condition.

Will a smart meter save me money?

The smart meter itself won't reduce your energy bills - you'll still pay for the gas and electricity you use. But, the accurate and real-time data a meter gives can help you make informed decisions. It’s much easier for you to see where you can save energy through little changes. Things like turning off lights when you leave a room or putting your washing machine on an eco-cycle.

Another financial benefit of smart meters is that they should stop you overpaying for energy. Your supplier won’t have to rely on estimated readings.

How can I get a smart meter?

Some suppliers will contact you when they’re scheduling smart meter installations in your area. With others, you can register your interest with them and they’ll get in touch with you when you can book an appointment.

Get in touch with your supplier to find out exactly how to get a smart meter. If you’re switching suppliers. Find the best the best deal you can, and double check their smart meter installation service if it’s important to you.

Supplier Smart meter generation – SMETS1, SMETS2 or both How to get a smart meter installed
British Gas Both – which one you get depends on where you live Register your interest
Bristol Energy Both – SMETS1 is only for those who urgently need a smart meter Register your interest
Bulb SMETS2 Register your interest
Co-operative Energy SMETS2 Cooperative Energy is now part of Octopus Energy. See their details for installation.
Ecotricity Both - which one you get depends on where you live Register your interest
EDF Energy SMETS2 Register your interest
EON SMETS2 Register your interest
Green Network Energy SMETS2 You’ll be contacted when installations are scheduled for your area – you’ll then be able to book an appointment.
Green Star SMETS2Green Star Energ

Green Star Energy is now part of Shell Energy. See their details for installation

Igloo Energy SMETS2 Smart meters not yet available.
Lumo SMETS2 You’ll be contacted when installations are scheduled for your area – you’ll then be able to book an appointment.
Nabuh Energy SMETS1 Register your interest
Npower SMETS2 Register your interest
Octopus Energy SMETS1 for people with additional needs, SMETS2 for everyone else You’ll be contacted when installations are scheduled for your area – you’ll then be able to book an appointment.
OVO Energy SMETS2 You’ll be contacted when installations are scheduled for your area – you’ll then be able to book an appointment.
Pure Planet SMETS2 Members are currently being contacted about smart meter installations before rolling out to all customers. If you have a SMETS1 or feed-in tariff, Pure Planet won’t be able to install a SMETS2 for you at the moment.
Scottish Power SMETS2  Log into your account to book an installation.
Shell Energy SMETS2 Register your interest
Simplicity SMETS1 You’ll be contacted when installations are scheduled for your area – you’ll then be able to book an appointment.
Spark Energy SMETS2 Register your interest
SSE SMETS2 Register your interest
Tonik Energy SMETS2 You’ll be contacted when installations are scheduled for your area – you’ll then be able to book an appointment. If you already have a SMETS1 smart meter, you can check whether Tonik Energy can read it.
Toto Energy N/A Toto Energy has stopped trading. All existing customers have been transferred to EDF Energy. See their details for installation.
Utilita SMETS1 All Utilita tariffs come with a smart meter installation, so you’ll already have one if you’re an existing customer, or one will be installed if you become a new customer.
Utility Warehouse SMETS2 You’ll be contacted when installations are scheduled for your area – you’ll then be able to book an appointment. If you’re a member, you can register your interest by logging in to your account.

Can I switch energy suppliers with a smart meter?

Yes. You can switch energy suppliers with a smart meter installed. But, depending on which generation you have installed, some of the functionality might change.

SMETS2 smart meters are designed for use with any supplier. That means when you switch, they’ll still send your meter readings automatically and you can view your energy use.

With SMETS1 meters, you’ll lose most of the functionality. You should be able to view your energy use each day, but the price will be wrong. It won’t send meter readings to your new supplier either. Most suppliers plan to update them to the latest SMETS2 technology soon.

Are smart meters safe?

Yes – they use radio waves to send your readings to energy suppliers, but the level of radiation is within safe limits. Public Health England has said they are perfectly safe to have in your home.

The meters themselves are vigorously tested under UK product safety laws to make sure they operate safely too.

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